Creation 22(2):28–32, March 2000
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Frogs—Jeremiah was not a bullfrog
Evolutionists would have us believe that all living things are related to each other: that fish became amphibians, and amphibians became reptiles, then some became birds, others mammals … etc. So when Three Dog Night sang ‘Jeremiah was a bullfrog’, the band could have been mistaken for making an evolutionary statement. Yet, in reality, evolutionists do believe that we have, if not frogs, some other amphibian in our ‘evolutionary ancestry’: that frogs really can, in principle, turn into princes—given millions of years.
There is no evidence of such a link in the fossil record. But first, let’s take a closer look at these small, fascinating creatures that inhabit our wetlands, deserts, mountains and forests. Although there are many different species of frogs and toads, with many different habits and features, they are all extremely similar, if not essentially the same.
Frogs and toads make up the order Anura, which is part of the vertebrate class Amphibia. There are more than 4,000 species of modern amphibians in three orders; in addition to the Anura, the Urodela (salamanders and newts) and Gymnophiona (caecilians — worm-like, with no limbs).1
‘Frog’ usually means those anurans with long legs and smooth, mucus-covered skin, while ‘toad’ refers to the robust, short-legged ones, especially those with rough, ‘warty’ skins (true toads are actually members of the family Bufonidae).
Worldwide, frogs range in size from the tiny Cuban frog (Sminthillus limbatus), which grows no bigger than 12mm (1/2 inch), to the African giant frog, which is up to 300mm (one foot) long (legs drawn in).
Most frogs move by leaping. Many arboreal (tree-dwelling) frogs have adhesive disks on the ends of their fingers and toes and leap between branches. Some toads have relatively short hind limbs and move forward by a series of hops, while others actually walk.
Frogs and toads inhabit most regions in the world except extremely cold areas. They live in deserts and on mountains—up to 4,560m (15,000 feet) above sea level. However, they are most diverse and abundant in the tropics. For example, the Amazon Basin in eastern Ecuador has 83 species, which is about the same number known for the entire United States.
The wide variety of features in frogs and toads today, particularly in reproduction (see aside below) makes it hard to know how many original Genesis kinds they represent. But each such kind (starting as a single species) may have had a substantial amount of genetic information, enabling a lot of different species to descend from it, each more specialized (and with less information) than the parent kind.2
Being so specialized, many frogs are easily threatened by changes to their environment. Around the world, species are becoming endangered because of timber harvesting, weed invasion, herbicides, grazing, predation by introduced fish and other animals, road building, and recreational sports, including fishing.
In Australia, threatened species include the gastric brooding frogs ( see aside below), the spotted tree frog, mountain mist frog, northern tinker frog, sharp-snouted day frog, waterfall frog, common mist frog, Eungella torrent frog, and southern dayfrog.3
Back in 1992, scientists began expressing concern about the number of vanishing frogs and toads worldwide.4 An article in the San Francisco Chronicle that same year said some scientists blamed acid rain for the losses. Others thought that increased ultraviolet radiation was enough to devastate amphibians that were typically thin-skinned and often basked in the sun, and whose eggs and larvae lived in shallow, sun-lit waters. The article went on : ‘But nobody claims to know for sure. Scientists are hard-pressed to understand how a diverse order of animals that has been on Earth for 200 million years should be highly vulnerable to an environmental change so subtle that experts can not agree what it is.’4
In his book Evolution: The Fossils Still Say No!, Duane Gish points out that evolutionists struggle to explain the supposed common ancestry of the amphibian orders, which appear to have changed little since first appearing in the fossil record.
He quotes evolutionist R.L. Carroll: ‘When they first appear in the fossil record, both frogs and salamanders appear essentially modern in their skeletal anatomy. … Despite these similarities, frogs, salamanders, and caecilians are very different from one another in skeletal structure and ways of life, both now and throughout their known fossil record … we have found no fossil evidence of any possible antecedents that possessed the specialized features common to all three modern orders. … In the absence of fossil evidence that frogs, salamanders and caecilians evolved from a close common ancestor, we must consider the possibility that each of the modern orders evolved from a distinct group of Paleozoic [supposedly 200 million to 500 million years ago] amphibians.’5
Gish also quotes evolutionists E.H. Colbert and M. Morales, who admit, ‘Despite these similarities, there is no evidence of any Paleozoic amphibians combining the characteristics that would be expected in a single common ancestor. The oldest known frogs, salamanders and caecilians are very similar to their living descendants.’5
Gish argues against suggestions by Carroll, Colbert and Morales that the very frog-like Triadobatrachus is a possible link between other, supposedly ancient amphibians, and modern frogs. He says there is ‘a fundamental difference between all frogs, and, in fact, all modern amphibians, and the temnospondyls, and all of the supposed earliest amphibians.’5
He also points out that there is a lack of evidence in the fossil record to suggest a link between fish and amphibians (which requires a substantial evolutionary change in the skeletal structure).
Michael Tyler, an evolutionist frog expert, admits the origin of frogs has been the subject of considerable debate. He says that just when and how the first frogs evolved ‘remains unknown’, and that there is difficulty tracing ancestry back to the ‘early Amphibia that roamed the earth and the fish stocks from which they, in turn, had evolved.’6
Dr Tyler says there is some agreement that the common ancestor was a bony fish (class Osteichthyes). ‘But just which kind of osteichthyan produced the basic stock is disputed hotly,’ he says.
He also says that other scientists favor the Dipnoi (lungfish) of which one member (Neoceratodus forsteri) lives in Australia today. Encyclopædia Britannica claims that amphibians evolved from lobe-finned fishes of the early Devonian epoch (supposedly about 400 million years ago). Yet: ‘The biologist interested in evolution finds a vast array of interesting, and often perplexing, problems in the study of frogs, a highly specialised group of amphibians’7
However, Britannica then admits there is great debate as to how frogs in particular should be classified, due to a lack of evolutionary evidence: ‘A scanty record of meaningful fossils and inadequate knowledge of the morphology and mode of life history of many kinds of frogs result in inconclusive evidence for any classification of the families; consequently, the following classifications must be considered to be tentative.’8
Of the 17 family classifications then listed, eight are recorded as having ‘no fossil record’, with other classifications dating back as far as the so-called Cretaceous period (supposedly about 70 million years ago). All these families are obviously recognizable enough in the fossil record for scientists to be able to refer to them as species still existing today. It is clear then, that the species listed look very much the same way they did supposedly tens of millions of years ago.
The lack of evidence in the fossil record of such evolutionary changes is not perplexing: it simply tells us that the toads and frogs in the world today are not descended from totally different kinds of creatures.
Rather, the ancestors of all toads and frogs were created by God ex nihilo, looking much like they do today, but with all the immensely complex genetic information needed for a wide variety of species to descend from them.
The eggs of most frogs hatch into aquatic, free-swimming larvae, commonly known as tadpoles. Tadpoles have no jaws, lungs or eyelids, and possess a skeleton of cartilage. After a period of growth, tadpoles undergo a striking change (metamorphosis), during which the tail is lost and limbs appear. First to appear are ‘buds’, which grow into hind limbs. Much later, the front limbs emerge, and the tail begins to shrink, being absorbed by the body. Jaws and teeth then develop. Cartilage turns into hardened bone, and the long, coiled intestine of the tadpole shrinks to the short, thick-walled folded intestine of the adult. These radical changes are equalled in the animal kingdom only by the metamorphosis found in insects. This amazing transformation is sometimes misused as an example of evolution. However, evolution would have meant lots of new genetic information arising. Whereas all the genetic information necessary for these changes already exists, programmed into the frog’s egg. The features and genetic code of the adult frog (or toad), inherited from its parents, are already ‘set’ in the egg, and no new information is added as it becomes a tadpole and then a frog.
One of the most incredible frog species is the Rheobatrachus silus, discovered in 1973, which gives birth to live young through the female’s mouth. The mother frog swallows her eggs after fertilization, and then stops feeding. For six or more weeks, these eggs develop and pass through a type of tadpole stage, all inside the stomach, without being digested.
The frog’s stomach is quite normal—able to secrete hydrochloric acid and enzymes that would normally digest whatever is swallowed—yet the jelly around the eggs contains a chemical that not only ‘switches off’ the production of the acid, but appears to prevent the stomach from discharging its contents further down the gut.1
‘Giving birth’ has been known to happen with one huge vomit emptying out the stomach, however, it is more usual for the births to be spaced out over a few days or even a week. This allows a baby frog to come into the mother’s mouth and sit on her tongue before making its debut through her wide jaws.2,3
A second gastric breeding species, Rheobatrachus vitellinus was discovered in 1984, also in Queensland, Australia. Sadly, R. silus and R. vitellinus have not been seen since 1981 and 1985, respectively; both are now regarded as possibly extinct.4 Evolutionists are at a loss to explain how a frog species successfully reproducing by egg-laying and a free-swimming tadpole stage could or would have changed, by ‘trial and error’ mutation/selection, into a stomach-brooding one. Neo-Darwinism insists that evolution happens by a series of accidental changes (mutations), that must somehow make it more likely for the species to be favoured by natural selection. How then, could this change to stomach brooding be more favourable? Without the complete mechanism in place, the first attempts to swallow eggs would lead to their digestion, so ending the evolutionary experiment.
Further reproductive varietyThere is much diversity in the way other ‘normal’ species breed. Most frogs deposit their eggs in quiet water as clumps, surface films, strings, or individual eggs, yet there are still many ways in which the young make it into the world.
Some frogs lay their eggs on land, then transport tadpoles to the water, stuck on their backs.
After fertilizing eggs, the male of the European midwife toad pushes his legs into the string of eggs until they are wound around his waist and legs. He carries the eggs with him on land until they are ready to hatch, at which point he returns to the pond.
Males of the so-called marsupial frogs of South America (Gastrotheca marsupiata) push the eggs produced by the female into a pouch on her back and fertilize them. The hatched tadpoles are carried in the pouch until, at a later stage of their development, mother moves to a pond where the tadpoles emerge and keep growing.
Still other frogs have their young developing within the egg membrane, emerging from a leafy nest as tiny froglets.
Some small African bufonids (of the genus Nectophrynoides) give birth to live young after their eggs are fertilized internally (another tough one for evolutionary explanations).
Males of at least three South American species build basin-like nests 25–30 cm (10–12 inches) wide and 2–5 cm (1–2 inches) deep in the mud of riverbanks. Tadpoles develop in the nest, into which water seeps.
The small Central American tree frog (Hyla ebraccata) is among species depositing eggs on vegetation above water; it leaves eggs in a single layer on the upper surfaces of horizontal leaves.
This fascinating variation is an amazing display of the Creator’s ingenuity, and the richness of the original genetic program of their kinds.
References and notes
- Wieland, C., Wonder Frog, Creation 15(2):26–27, 1993.
- Ref 1. Further reading on gastric brooders: Tyler, M. J., Australian Frogs: a natural history, Reed New Holland, Australia, 1994.
- Tyler, M.J., Australian Frogs: a natural history, Reed New Holland, Australia, pp. 135–140, 1994.
- Ref. 3, p. 165.
Frog Facts … From the Lily Pad
- Frogs are a favorite subject for biology classes, regularly going under the scalpel to help high school and college students understand anatomy.1
- People in various parts of the world, particularly France and Indonesia, eat frogs’ legs as a delectable morsel.
- Some frogs have brilliant colours on their underbellies which flash when they move, thus confusing predators.
- All frogs have poison glands. Those with more toxic glands are brightly coloured, warning predators to stay away. The toxic ingredients are of various types, ranging from local irritants to convulsants, hallucinogens, and neurotoxins (nerve poisons).
- Although these skin secretions irritate human skin and mucous membranes, they do not cause warts!
- Frogs are masters of camouflage: some in South America have flattened bodies that enable them to blend well with dead leaves on the forest floor; several tree frogs have rough greenish-grey skins which resemble lichens on tree trunks; yet other frogs can change their colour from night to day.
- Coqui frogs in Costa Rica can distinguish the sound of their own species in the din of the rainforest by using their lungs: when sound impinges on the frogs’ lungs, the pressure in the mouth cavity changes, which actually makes their eardrums vibrate.2
- Cane toads (Bufo marinus) were introduced to Australia in 1935 to control sugar cane pests. Since then, their populations have grown to plague proportions, threatening native frog species and creating a general nuisance for the human population in coastal Queensland and northern New South Wales. Continuing to move inland, it is thought that the toads may reach ecologically sensitive areas of the Northern Territory by 2020.3
[Editorial update January 2014: Of course Australian readers (at least) will likely know that cane toads have reached such ‘ecologically sensitive areas’ of the Northern Territory already (and even beyond, into Western Australia). See: The cane toad ‘war’.]
References and notes
- Unless otherwise stated, all information is from The Encyclopædia Britannica, 15th Edition, 13:429–445, 1992.
- ‘If you frogs can hear me—breathe heavily!’ Creation 11(1):20–21, 1988.
- Tyler, M.J., Australian Frogs: a natural history, Reed New Holland, Australia, p. 112, 1994.
References and notes
- Unless otherwise stated, all references are from The New Encyclopædia Britannica, 15th Edition, 13:429–435, 1992.
- After the Flood, there would have been a lot of empty ecological niches and isolation of populations, ideal conditions for species to arise (without adding any new information, i.e. nothing to do with the idea of particles-to-people, which involves masses of new information).
- Torr, G., Department of Zoology, James Cook University, Qld: www.jcu.edu.au/school/tbiol/zoology/herp/decline/decl.html.
- Petit, C., Disappearance of toads, frogs has some scientists worried, San Francisco Chronicle, 22 April, 1992, taken from frog.simplenet.com/froggy/sciam/frogs-disappear.txt
- Gish, D., Evolution: The Fossils Still Say No!, Institute for Creation Research, CA, USA, pp. 93–94, 1995.
- Tyler, M. J., Australian Frogs: a natural history, New Reed Holland, Australia, p. 10, 1994.
- The New Encyclopædia Britannica, 15th Edition, 13:429, 1992.
- Ref. 7, pp. 433–434.
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